Friday, November 20, 2009

Rating agencies and Indian debt

India has always received a raw deal from rating agencies. This carries a cost to the country. India's present sovereign rating of BBB implies that Indian companies will rate lower and hence pay highs spreads over the risk free rates. Taking into account outstanding ECBs and NRI deposits and assuming that they cost 2 percentage points more than they should, Jaimini Bhagwati estimates that the additional forex outflow to India on this account is $2 bn annually.

Of the rating of BBB for India, Bhagwati writes:
Is it really credible that as of November 2009, the Government of India (GoI) has a higher probability of defaulting, over a five-year horizon, on its external debt obligations as compared to Enron four days before it went bankrupt or Lehman in the second week of September 2008? Currently, the GoI’s BBB– rating is the same as that of Iceland and the UK is rated triple A while China is placed at A+. Are countries rated higher if they impose fewer controls on their capital accounts? Clearly, the answer is that CRAs do not have the answers. One way forward could be for India to push for discussions about perceived anomalies in sovereign ratings in FSB and BCBS forums. Since rating agencies serve a quasi-regulatory function, we could seek the setting up of a multilateral CRA.

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